Every few months, it wallops me upside the head.
What is it, you ask? Nothing good, that’s for sure. It’s the fear that, even after years of writing — and getting a degree in journalism, I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing.
The familiar foe hit me again this weekend. My local RWA chapter, NARWA, hosted Erin Quinn for morning and afternoon workshops.
After lunch, she talked about creating a setting so strong that it’s really a character. (Think the storms in “Wizard of Oz” or the jungle in “Jurassic Park,” she said.)
The comment that stuck with me most was this: “If at the end of the scene, you could pluck the players and dialog out and plant them anywhere else without some major work, you haven’t done your job.”
Uh-oh. If that’s true, I’m in trouble. Many of my characters’ conversations — witty, laugh-packed chats — take place in restaurants or other standard “date” places … generic, could-be-anywhere places.
I think this is where my training in journalism serves me ill. When you’re writing a news story, you relay quotes and facts … not take note of how birds flitted past overhead while your source was speaking, or how his eyes were the exact same shade of periwinkle as his sweater.
Heck … a journalist probably wouldn’t even use “periwinkle.” Don’t use a $10 word when a 10-cent one (blue) gets the point across just as well.
As a result, my prose is relatively straightforward. “He laughed.” “She wrinkled her nose.” “He bolted upright so fast he nearly fell out of his hammock.”
You get the idea.
My GH entries may need more help than I think. Good thing I still have some time to make ’em shine.